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US: Mothers of Slain Blackwater Guards Slam Company

North Carolina-based security contractor Blackwater USA refuses to share the results of the company's probe into the killings of four employees in Iraq a year ago, the mothers of two slain employees tell ABC News.

Associated Press
April 6th, 2005

North Carolina-based security contractor Blackwater USA refuses to share the results of the company's probe into the killings of four employees in Iraq a year ago, the mothers of two slain employees tell ABC News.

"At one point, we were actually told that if we wanted to see the paperwork of how my son and his co-workers were killed that we'd have to sue them," said Donna Zovko, mother of Jerry Zovko, said in an interview slated to air on "Primetime Live" on Thursday night. She is from Bratenahl, Ohio.

A spokesman for Moyock-based Blackwater declined Wednesday to comment on the network's story until after it aired.

The families filed a lawsuit in January charging Blackwater with fraud and wrongful death. That case is now pending in federal district court in Raleigh.

Blackwater contends the families cannot sue the company due to the Defense Base Act, which established workers' compensation insurance for employees of overseas government contractors.

Zovko, Scott Helvenston, Wesley Batalona, and Michael Teague, all contract guards for Blackwater, were killed when they drove into an ambush March 31, 2004, along a main road in Fallujah.

After Iraqi insurgents riddled their vehicles with bullets, a mob mutilated and burned their bodies and hung two of them from a bridge over the Euphrates River. The incident was captured on television and front pages around the world and led to a U.S. assault on the Iraqi city last year that resulted in the deaths of about 600 Iraqis and 10 U.S. Marines.

In August, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that the four-man detail violated Blackwater's own safety rules, which specified a six-man team in its contract to protect a company feeding U.S. troops.

Helvenston's mother, Katy Helvenston-Wettengel, told ABC her son was insufficiently trained and was sent on the mission in inadequately armored cars. The Blackwater employees were riding in a pair of Mitsubishi Pajero sport utility vehicles, which had no armor on the sides but did have an armor plate in the rear.

"You know what they had for armament on that vehicle? A reinforced back bumper. That was their armored vehicle," said Helvenston-Wettengel, of Leesburg, Fla. "I'm a very forgiving person, but I don't think I will ever forgive them for that, and I think it was all about greed and the dollar."

"I know Blackwater didn't pull the trigger but they put Scotty and these other three guys in that spot at that time with no way to protect themselves," Helvenston-Wettengel said.

Last month, a roadside bomb killed two Americans working for Blackwater Security in Iraq and injured a third.





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